Tuesday, 28 December 2010 04:33

Bullshot Crummond and the Invisible Bride of Death

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Los Angeles is a big city, with more than its share of funny people, shows and events. Huge and humorful though it may be, BULLSHOT CRUMMOND AND THE INVISIBLE BRIDE OF DEATH, currently playing at Noho’s Whitmore-Lindley Theatre, is the funniest show in town.

Show times and tickets 

The play is a sequel to the 1972 stage hit BULLSHOT CRUMMOND, which played for years in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and was later made into a film produced by ex-Beatle George Harrison. Ron House, who, along with writing partner Alan Shearman, created both the original and the follow-up, also developed the cult hit EL GRANDE DE COCA COLA, and has in recent years run the HiDesert Playhouse in Joshua Tree, CA. 

 

To say the play is a parody of British pulp adventurer Bulldog Drummond, who was also immortalized in a series of successful 1930s and 1940s American films, is to but scratch the satirical surface. This second CRUMMOND parodies farce, film noir, and a myriad of other genres, while boasting theatrical special effects that are at once unbelievably cheesy, and mind-bendingly clever. Along the way we meet spies, Nazis, femme fatales, evil twins, camels, nicotine-addled soldiers, and a ferocious killer who resembles something from Jim Henson’s dumpster. Crummond is one of those Maxwell Smart or Inspector Clouseau-type characters who isn’t terribly smart or particularly tough, but always foils the baddies in the end. The plot begins when Crummond’s honeymoon with innocent bride Rosemary is derailed when our hero is persuaded to chase the recently-purloined crown jewels, and their thieves who also happen to possess a formula for invisibility. 

 

Packed with brilliant performances by a cast of five…er…thirteen….er…5,000. Okay, five actors playing 5,000 characters, approximately 4,987 of which are invisible – we’ll get to that later – which leaves roughly thirteen visible characters, played by the versatile cast of five. Got that?

Oliver Muirhead is perfect as the constantly befuddled, yet always steadfast Hugh “Bullshot” Crummond. His timing and delivery are impeccable, even whilst dueling, flying, or hanging from the edge of a train. Constantly at his side, except when one of the other is abducted, is Anastasia Roussel as naïve bride Rosemary. A perfect blend of innocent Brit-farce ingénue, mixed with ‘30s screen siren, Roussel is beautiful and hilarious.

Christian Rummel plays sinister Nazi villain Otto VonBruno and battle-worn hero Colonel Claude Duvalle. Rummel commands every scene he’s in, gets more than his share of laughs, and navigates the show’s many quick changes brilliantly. Katie Boeck is wonderful as well as amorous Lenya VonBruno, whose loyalties change as quickly as the costumes. Boeck especially shines in the second-act ditty she sings while posing as a chanteuse.

Lastly, Rodger Bumpass is brilliant playing a host of characters, including short-fused invisibility specialist Dr. Morton Fenwick, tobacco lovin’ Sergeant LaFrais, and many others, including the aforementioned muppet from hell. By play’s end, Bumpass is playing characters that are onstage with one another. To say he pulls it off is to severely understate. His work in the final moments of CRUMMOND is a comic tour de force.

Ron House’s direction is simply extraordinary. The action, dialogue, scene shifts, costume changes, and evocative sound cues move fast and furious, and the laughs are literally non-stop. Though performed on a nearly bare stage, House makes great use of the various nooks and crannies the Whitmore-Lindley stage provides. Working with little more than a few entrances and a balcony, House’s staging brings to life tunnels, dungeons, trains, planes, and battlefields.

One of his more brilliant contrivances is the invisibility subplot. Characters fight with and are captured by invisible guards and other transparent villains, which helps both the good guys and the evildoers get out of assorted scrapes. The solo-combat scenes are yet another highlight.

No show as complicated as this one can happen without strong technical elements. Paige Selene Luke’s lighting design beautifully isolates characters and scenes on the small stage, while complimenting the many special effects. Stephanie Schoelzel’s costumes are stylish and handsome in the way that only clothes from Hollywood films circa 1935 or so can be. Sound designer Edwin Peraza’s period music cues, and sound effects are almost like an additional character, whether creating a hoard of charging soldiers, or a taxi skidding to a stop and waiting outside. It presumably falls to stage manager Kelly Rhone to execute the many sound and light cues – no small feat in this show. She deserves a shout out for making the tech elements keep up with the show’s breakneck pace.

BULLSHOT CRUMMOND AND THE INVISIBLE BRIDE OF DEATH is what live stage all about: funny, thrilling, theatrical in nearly every possible way, and a knockout cast delivering bravura performances across the board. Hollywood made at least a dozen Bulldog Drummond sequels in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Here’s hoping Ron House and company will deliver at least that many revisits with Crummond.

Show times and tickets 

BULLSHOT CRUMMOND AND THE INVISIBLE BRIDE OF DEATH plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Jan. 16, 2011. (No performances on Dec. 24, 25, 31, Jan. 1)
  

Whitmore-Lindley Theatre, 11006 Magnolia Blvd. (near Vineland), North Hollywood. 

Admission: $25 

Reservations: (800) 595-4849

Online ticketing: www.bullshotisback.com

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Ty Donaldson

Read 5384 times Last modified on Friday, 31 December 2010 08:47

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